Sunday, 29 October 2017

Last Summer by Kylie Ladd

Paperback:  Rory Buchanan has it all:  looks, talent, charisma - an all around good-guy, he is the centre of every party and a loving father and husband.  Then one summer's afternoon, tragedy strikes and those who are closest to him struggle to come to terms with their loss.  Friendships are strained, marriages falter and loyalties are tested in a gripping and brilliantly crafted novel of loss, grief and desire.

Told from the points of view of nine of the people who are mourning Rory, this riveting novel presents a vivid snapshot of contemporary suburban Australia and how we live now.  Marriage, friendship, family - all are dissected with great psychological insight as they start to unravel under the pressure of grief.  The characters live on the page;  their lives are unfolded and their dilemmas are as real as our own.

Last Summer (2011) is a stunning novel about loss - the terrible pain of losing a husband, brother or friend but also all those smaller losses that everyone must face:  the loss of youth, the shattering of dreams, the fading of convictions and the change in our notions of who we thought we were.

It is also about what comes after the loss:  how we pick up the pieces and the way we remake our lives.

About the author:  Kylie Ladd is a novelist and freelance writer.  Her essays and articles have appeared in The Age, Griffith Review, O Magazine, The Sydney Morning Herald, Good Medicine, Kill Your Darlings, The Hoopla and MamaMia, among others.  Kylie's first novel, After the Fall, was published in Australia, the US and Turkey, while her second, Last Summer, was highly commended in the 2011 Federation of Australian Writers Christina Stead Award for fiction.

Her previous books are Naked: Confessions of Adultery and Infidelity and Living with Alzheimer's and Other Dementias.  Kylie’s third novel, Into My Arms, has been selected as one of Get Reading’s Fifty Books You Can’t Put Down for 2013.

She holds a PhD in neuropsychology, and lives in Melbourne, Australia, with her husband and two children.

Rating:  5/5

All You Who Sleep Tonight (1990) by Vikram Seth

The Fullness Of Time In The Moment

Friday, 27 October 2017

Summary Justice (Benson and De Vere Series) by John Fairfax

Paperback:  All trials are trials for one's life, just as all sentences are sentences of death. - De Profundis, Oscar Wilde

The last time Tess de Vere saw William Benson, she was a law student on work experience.  He was a 21-year-old, led from the dock of the Old Bailey to begin a life sentence for murder.

He had said he was innocent.

She had believed him.

Sixteen years later, Tess overhears a couple of hacks mocking a newcomer to the London Bar, a no-hoper with a murder conviction, running his own show from an old fishmonger's in Spitalfields.  That night she walks back into Benson's life.  The price of his rehabilitation - and access to the bar - is an admission of guilt to the killing of Paul Harbeton, whose family have vowed revenge.

He is an outcast. The government wants to shut him down, and no solicitor will instruct him.  But he is subsidised by a mystery benefactor, and a desperate woman has turned to him for help:  Sarah Collingstone, mother of a child with special needs, accused of slaying her wealthy lover.  It is a hopeless case, and the murder trial, Benson's first, starts in four days.  The evidence is overwhelming, but, like Benson long ago, she swears she is innocent.

Tess joins the defence team, determined to help Benson survive.  But as Benson follows the twists and turns in the courtroom, Tess embarks upon a secret investigation of her own, determined to uncover the truth behind the death of Paul Harbeton on a lonely night in Soho.

True to life, fast-paced and absolutely compelling, Summary Justice (2017) introduces a new series of courtroom dramas featuring two maverick lawyers driven to fight injustice at any cost and is a much welcome recital to modern courtroom thrillers in the UK as there has been a dearth in this field for a long time.

Blind Defence, the second book in the Benson and De Vere Series set in London, will be released in April 2018.

About the author:  John Fairfax is the pen name of William Brodrick who practised as a barrister before becoming a full-time novelist.  Under his own name, he is a previous winner of the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award and his first novel was a Richard and Judy Book Club Selection.

Rating:  5/5


Sunday, 22 October 2017

One Or The Other

Combined Pleasures

The Scandal by Fredrik Backman

Hardback:  The No 1 New York Times best-selling author of A Man Called Ove returns with a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream - and the price required to make it come true.

A town this small cannot afford to take sides. 

But when the worst happens, whose side would you take?

People say Beartown is finished.  A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees.  But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town.

And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today. Their junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semifinals, and they actually have a shot at winning.  All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semifinal match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young girl traumatized and a town in turmoil.  Accusations are made, and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

The Scandal (2017) - published in the USA as Beartown - explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. 

The Scandal is translated from the Swedish by Neil Smith.

About the author:  Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger, columnist and the No 1 New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove (soon to be a major motion picture starring Tom Hanks), My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, Britt-Marie Was Here, Beartown, Us Against You, as well as two novellas, And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer and The Deal of a Lifetime.  His books are published in more than forty countries.  The Scandal is being adapted for TV by the team behind The Bridge.  He lives in Stockholm, Sweden, with his wife and two children.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 20 October 2017

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ (1881-1955), French Idealist Philosopher, Jesuit Priest

Crimes Of The Father by Thomas Keneally

Hardback:  Thomas Keneally pulls no punches in this powerful novel about the Catholic Church's attempts to cover up cases of child abuse, and a priest who decides to help its innocent victims' fight to be heard.

Father Frank Docherty has known temptation.  As a young priest, he came close to breaking his vows for a married woman, just before being expelled from the archdiocese of Sydney for his outspoken views on the Vietnam War.

Now, after years spent in Canada as a monk and psychologist, he returns home to speak at a conference about paedophilia within the Catholic Church.  He had hoped to spend time with his mother and old friends.  But from the moment he arrives, he gets caught up in the issue first-hand:  his taxi driver turns out to be a former nun, boiling with anger at being abused by a priest in her childhood.

Then another case emerges;  a man Docherty last saw when he was a small boy.  And the eminent cleric accused in both cases is the brother of the woman he once fell for, who remains a dear friend.  If Docherty follows his conscience and pursues the truth, the consequences could be devastating for many.

In this searing, compelling novel, Thomas Keneally draws on his own experience as an ex-seminarian to bring alive matters of faith, celibacy, perversion, conscience and marriage.  Portraying the Catholic Church at a pivotal moment, he shows that its prevarications and cover-ups wreaked terrible damage not only on innocents but on itself, with toxic repercussions to this day.

Crimes of the Father (2016) is an excellent example of fiction's capacity to pull apart and explore polarising contemporary problems and gives an honest understanding of a deeply wounded culture.

About the author:  Tom Keneally won the Booker Prize in 1982 with Schindler's Ark, later made into the Steven Spielberg Academy Award-winning film Schindler's List.  His non-fiction includes the memoir Searching For Schindler and Three Famines, an LA Times Book of the Year, and the histories The Commonwealth Of Thieves, The Great Shame and American Scoundrel.  His fiction includes Shame and the Captives, The Daughters Of Mars, The Widow And Her Hero (shortlisted for the Prime Minister's Literary Award), An Angel In Australia and Bettany's Book.  His novels The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Gossip from the Forest, and Confederates were all shortlisted for the Booker Prize, while Bring Larks and Heroes and Three Cheers For The Paraclete won the Miles Franklin Award.  The People's Train was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize, South East Asia division.

Rating:  4/5

Definition: Exulansis

Definition: Occhiolism

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Sunday Lifestyle

The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel by Felicitas D Goodman

Paperback:  Was a twenty-three-year-old university student a hostage to the devil?

Two priests claimed Anneliese Michel was possessed by Lucifer, Nero, Judas, Cain and Adolf Hitler.

Physicians diagnosed her seizures as a form of epilepsy.

Here a noted anthropologist offers a startling explanation of this tragic case.

In 1976, a young German girl named Anneliese Michel underwent a series of exorcisms.  The rites were administered by two priests of the Catholic Church to free Anneliese of the six demons they believed possessed her. 

Seemingly, as a result of the exorcisms, the girl died.

Worldwide publicity followed when the girl's parents and the two exorcists were brought to trial and convicted of negligent homicide.  Here a noted anthropologist offers her own interpretation of the exorcisms of Anneliese Michel.  Drawing on interviews with the two exorcists, the girl's parents and friends, transcripts of the trial, and tape recordings made during the exorcisms—as well as studies of religious experience in various cultures—, Felicitas Goodman has written a fascinating, compelling book, one that finally tells what happened in this strange case as it delves into the age-old mystery of demonic possession.

The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel (2005, reprint of 1981) is a brilliant, spellbinding new report of a young woman's bizarre religious experience.

About the author:  Felicitas D Goodman (1914-2005) was Associate Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Denison University in Granville, Ohio.  A Religious Anthropologist, she wrote numerous books including Speaking in Tongues, How About Demons?, Where the Spirits Ride the Wind and Esctasy, Ritual and Alternate Reality.  In 1978, she founded the Cuyamungue Institute, based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The institute is a nonprofit anthropological research and teaching institution specializing in ecstatic trance and the use of ritual body postures.  Before her death in 2005, Goodman had published over forty articles and more than seven books.  Her book, The Exorcism of Anneliese Michel, was the inspiration for the film The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

I Worried by Mary Oliver

Friday, 13 October 2017

I Know A Secret (A Rizzoli and Isles Thriller) by Tess Gerritsen

Hardback:  In the twelfth and latest suspenseful and edgy novel featuring Jane Rizzoli and Maura Isles, the crime-solving duo - featured in the smash-hit TNT series Rizzoli and Isles - are faced with the gruesomely staged murder of a horror film producer in I Know A Secret (2017).

The crime scene is unlike any that Detective Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles have ever before encountered.  The woman lies in apparently peaceful repose on her bed, and Maura finds no apparent cause of death, but there is no doubt the woman is indeed dead.  The victim’s eyes have been removed and placed in the palm of her hand, a gesture that echoes the terrifying films she produces. 

Is a crazed movie fan reenacting scenes from those disturbing films?

When another victim is found, again with no apparent cause of death, again with a grotesquely staged crime scene, Jane and Maura realize the killer has widened his circle of targets.  He has chosen one particular woman for his next victim, and she knows he is coming for her next.  She is the only one who can help Jane and Maura catch the killer.

But she knows a secret.

And it is a secret she will never tell.

About the author:  Bestselling author Tess Gerritsen is also a physician, and she brings to her novels her first-hand knowledge of emergency and autopsy rooms.  Her thrillers starring homicide detective Jane Rizzoli and medical examiner Maura Isles inspired the hit TV series Rizzoli and Isles.

But Tess' interests span far more than medicine and crime.  As an anthropology student at Stanford University, she catalogued centuries-old human remains, and she continues to travel the world, driven by her fascination with ancient cultures and bizarre natural phenomena.

She lives with her husband in Maine.  For more information on Tess Gerritsen and her novels, visit her website at

Rating:  5/5

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The House of Unexpected Sisters (The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency) by Alexander McCall Smith

Hardback:  Precious Ramotswe learns valuable lessons about first impressions and forgiveness in this latest instalment of the beloved and best-selling No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series.

Mma Ramotswe and Mma Makutsi are approached by their part-time colleague, Mr. Polopetsi, with a troubling story:  a woman, accused of being rude to a valued customer, has been wrongly dismissed from her job at an office furniture store.  Never one to let an act of injustice go unanswered, Mma Ramotswe begins to investigate, but soon discovers unexpected information that causes her to reluctantly change her views about the case.

Other surprises await our intrepid proprietress in the course of her inquiries.  Mma Ramotswe is puzzled when she happens to hear of a local nurse named Mingie Ramotswe.  She thought she knew everybody by the name of Ramotswe, and that they were all related.

Who is this mystery lady?

Then, she is alerted by Mma Potokwani that an unpleasant figure from her past has recently been spotted in town.  Mma Ramotswe does her best to avoid the man, but it seems that he may have returned to Botswana specifically to seek her out.

What could he want from her?

With the generosity and good humour that guide all her endeavours, Mma Ramotswe will untangle these questions for herself and for her loved ones, ultimately bringing to light important truths about friendship and family - both the one you’re born with and the one you choose.

The House of Unexpected Sisters (2017) is the eighteenth and latest book in the cleverly written, thought-provoking and superbly witty No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series set in Botswana, Africa.

About the author:  Alexander McCall Smith is one of the world's most prolific and most popular authors.  For many years, he was a professor of medical law, then, after the publication of his highly successful No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series, which has sold over twenty-five million copies, he devoted his time to the writing of fiction and has seen his various series of books translated into over forty-six languages and become bestsellers throughout the world.

These include the 44 Scotland Street novels, first published as a serial novel in the Scotsman, the Isabel Dalhousie novels, the von Igelfeld series and the Corduroy Mansions novels.  His novel, Fatty O'Leary's Dinner Party, was winner of the 2015 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for comic fiction.

Alexander McCall Smith is Professor Emeritus of Medical Law at the University of Edinburgh and holds honorary doctorates from thirteen universities.  In 2017, he received the National Arts Club of America Medal of Honour for Achievement in Literature.

Rating:  5/5

Monday, 9 October 2017

Silence: In The Age of Noise by Erling Kagge

Hardback:  Quietly, wisely, Silence makes a case for dumbing the din of modern life, and learning to listen again. - Robert Macfarlane

This breathtaking, inspiring little book teaches us how to find precious moments of silence - whether we are crossing the Antarctic, climbing Everest, or on the train at rush hour.

What is silence?

Where can it be found?

Why is it more important than ever?

Norwegian explorer Erling Kagge once spent fifty days walking solo across Antarctica, his radio broken.

In this charming, quietly life-changing book - now an international publishing phenomenon - he takes us on a journey to unlock the power of silence.

"Only when I first understood that I had a primal need for silence, was I able to begin my search for it - and there, deep beneath a cacophony of traffic noise and thoughts, music and machinery, iPhones, and snowploughs, it lay in wait for me.  Silence," wrote Erling Kagge.

And he shows us how to find perfect silence in our daily lives, however busy we are.

Silence (2017) was translated from the Norwegian by Becky L Cook.

About the author:  Erling Kagge is a Norwegian explorer, lawyer, art collector, entrepreneur, politician, Rolex model, author and publisher.  Kagge was the first explorer in history to reach the 'three poles' - North, South and the summit of Everest.  During these expeditions, he experienced extreme periods of silence - the longest being fifty days.  He has since returned to Norway and searches for moments of silence amongst noisy family life and works as a writer and publisher.

Take A Walk

Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Father (Made In Sweden: Part 1) by Anton Svensson

Paperback:  How does a child become a criminal?

How does a father lose a son?

An epic crime novel with the excitement of Jo Nesbø's Headhunters and the narrative depth of We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Father is inspired by the extraordinary, intoxicating and heartbreaking true story of three brothers who committed ten audacious bank robberies in Sweden over the course of just two years.  It tells the story of how three boys are transformed over the course of their lives from innocent children to the most wanted criminals in Sweden.

None had committed a crime before. 

All were under 24 years old. 

All of them would be changed forever as individuals and as a family.

And of the man who made them that way:  their father.

The Father (2015) is the first instalment in the Made In Sweden series and is translated from the Swedish by Elizabeth Clark Wessel. 

More information on how the real case inspired this novel can be found in The Father.

The second book in the series - The Sons - is expected to be released on 9 January 2018.

About the author:  Anton Svensson is a pseudonym for Anders Roslund and Stefan Thunberg. 

Anders Roslund is an award-winning investigative journalist and one of the most successful and
critically acclaimed Scandinavian crime writers of our time.  Roslund is part of the New York Times bestselling author duo Roslund & Hellström, who are recipients of many prestigious awards, including the CWA International Dagger, The Glass Key and the Swedish Academy of Crime Writers’ Award, and who boast sales exceeding five million copies.  Films and TV-series based on Roslund & Hellström’s novels are in the works, both in Hollywood and Europe.

Stefan Thunberg is one of Scandinavia’s most celebrated screenwriters.  His body of work spans popular TV-series such as Henning Mankell’s Wallander and Håkan Nesser’s Van Veeteren as well
as two of Sweden’s biggest box office successes in recent years:  Hamilton and Jägarna 2.  While Thunberg achieved fame as a screenwriter, the rest of his family became infamous in an entirely different way:  his father and brothers were Sweden’s most notorious bank robbers, dubbed Militärligan (The Military Gang) by the media.

Rating:  5/5

Friday, 6 October 2017

Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918), American Writer and Poet

Homekeeping Hearts Are The Happiest

I Linger Long

A Body In Barcelona (Chief Inspector Max Cámara Series) by Jason Webster

Paperback:  Tensions in Spain are rising:  political violence and social unrest have suddenly re-emerged.

Madrid is trying to keep a tight leash on Catalonia, where the call for independence is getting louder by the day.

The last time Barcelona moved to break away, in the 1930s, Spain quickly descended into civil war.

Down in Valencia, a shallow grave is found among abandoned orange groves just outside the city. Chief Inspector Max Camara, now heading up the new Special Crime Unit, is put on the case.  But this is no ordinary murder.

Behind it, Max uncovers a tangled web that could awaken ghosts from the past, decimate Barcelona and destabilize the whole country.  It is all down to Max, but the stakes are higher than anything he has ever known.

A Body In Barcelona (2015) is the fifth instalment in this brilliant Chief Inspector Max Cámara series set in Spain.  It is highly recommended.

About the author:  Jason Webster is a highly acclaimed Anglo-American author and authority on Spain whose work ranges from biography to travel, crime fiction and history.  His books have sold in over a dozen countries, including the US, the UK and China, and have been nominated both for the Guardian First Book Award and the Crime Writers’ Association New Blood Dagger Award.  He has been favourably compared with writers such as Bruce Chatwin (The Daily Mail), Gerald Brenan (El País) and Ernest Hemingway (Sunday Telegraph).

Webster was born near San Francisco and brought up in the UK, Germany and Italy.  After finishing a degree in Arabic and Islamic History at the University of Oxford, he worked as an editor at the BBC World Service for several years before becoming a full-time writer and moving to Spain.  He is married to the flamenco dancer Salud and they have two sons.  They currently divide their time between Valencia and the UK.

Rating:  5/5

First October Weekend

Forgoing Faith And Discipline

No Plans Weekend

Moral Outrage In This Day and Age

Monday, 2 October 2017

Kind of Blue: A Political Memoir by Ken Clarke

Hardback:  Ken Clarke needs no introduction.  One of the genuine 'Big Beasts' of the political scene, during his forty-six years as the Member of Parliament for Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire he has been at the very heart of government under three prime ministers.  He is a political obsessive with a personal hinterland, as well known as a Tory Wet with Europhile views as for his love of cricket, Nottingham Forest Football Club and jazz.

In Kind of Blue, Clarke charts his remarkable progress from working-class scholarship boy in Nottinghamshire to high political office and the upper echelons of both his party and of government. But Clarke is not a straightforward Conservative politician.  His position on the left of the party often led Margaret Thatcher to question his true blue credentials and his passionate commitment to the European project has led many fellow Conservatives to regard him with suspicion - and cost him the leadership on no less than three occasions.

Clarke has had a ringside seat in British politics for four decades and his trenchant observations and candid account of life both in and out of government will enthral readers of all political persuasions. Vivid, witty and forthright, and taking its title not only from his politics but from his beloved Miles Davis, Kind of Blue is political memoir at its very best.

Kind of Blue (2016) has been shortlisted for the Best Memoir by a Parliamentarian in the Parliamentary Book Awards.

About the author:  Born in Nottingham in 1940, Ken Clarke, CH, QC, was educated at Nottingham High School and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he studied law and was called to the bar in 1963.  In 1970, at the age of twenty-nine, he became MP for Rushcliffe in Nottinghamshire, a seat he has held ever since.  He held many ministerial posts in Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, including Secretary of State for Health and Secretary of State for Education.  He subsequently served as Home Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer under John Major and Secretary of State for Justice and Minister without Portfolio under David Cameron.  He is currently the Father of the House.  He lives in London and Nottinghamshire.